Tag Archives: State and local government

Reaching out to Stakeholders—and Steakholders—in Philadelphia

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has staff around the country who serve several critical roles:

  • Contacting employers and households to collect the vital economic information published by BLS
  • Working with partners in the states who also collect and review economic data
  • Analyzing and publishing regional, state, and local data and providing information to a wide variety of stakeholders

To expand the network of local stakeholders who are familiar with and use BLS data to help make good decisions, the BLS regional offices sponsor periodic Data User Conferences. The BLS office in Philadelphia recently held such an event, hosted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.

These Data User Conferences typically bring together experts from several broad topic areas. In Philadelphia, participants heard about trends in productivity measures; a mash-up of information on a single occupation—truck drivers—that shows the range of data available (pay and benefits, occupational requirements, and workplace safety); and an analysis of declines in labor force participation.

Typically, these events provide a mix of national and local data and try to include some timely local information. The Philadelphia conference included references to the recent Super Bowl victory by the Philadelphia Eagles and showed how to use the Consumer Price Index inflation calculator to compare buying power between 1960 (the last time the Eagles won the NFL Championship) and today.

We also tried to develop a cheesesteak index, a Philadelphia staple. Using data from the February 2018 Consumer Price Index, we can find the change in the price of cheesesteak ingredients over the past year.

Ingredient Change in Consumer Price Index, February 2017 to February 2018
White bread 2.5 percent decrease
Beef and veal 2.1 percent increase
Fresh vegetables 2.1 percent increase
Cheese and related products 0.8 percent decrease

Image of a Philadelphia cheesesteak

These data are for the nation as a whole and are available monthly. Consumer price data are also available for many metropolitan areas, including Philadelphia. These local data are typically available every other month and do not provide as much detail as the national data.

While the Data User Conferences focus on providing information, we also remind attendees the information is only available thanks to the voluntary cooperation of employers and households. The people who attend the conferences can help us produce gold standard data by cooperating with our data-collection efforts. In return we remind them we always have “live” economists available in their local BLS information office to answer questions by phone or email or help them find data quickly.

Although yet another Nor’easter storm was approaching, the recent Philadelphia Data User Conference included an enthusiastic audience who asked good questions and left with a greater understanding of BLS statistics. The next stop on the Data User Conference tour is Atlanta, later this year. Keep an eye on the BLS Southeast Regional Office webpage for more information.

Celebrating 75 Years of BLS Regional Offices

World War II had a significant impact on the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In 1942, the Office of Price Administration asked BLS to help them understand what was going on with prices and price controls. Price controls? Remember, this was during World War II and there was significant government intervention in markets. Shortly after that, the National War Labor Board asked BLS to conduct surveys and evaluate wage rate increases. These two projects showed the need for local information, not just national averages. Why am I writing about events from World War II? Well, the growing need for local data led BLS to create our regional offices, and we recently celebrated their 75th anniversary. I want to tell you a little about these offices and their rich history.

Today, BLS staff throughout the country collect price and wage data and more. As you can imagine, the uses of these data and the methods for collecting them have changed significantly. Our regional offices collect survey data, work closely with our state partners, and help people find and understand the information they need.

Survey data collection has changed significantly from the 1940s. Today our regional staff throughout the country work with survey respondents to make it as easy as possible to provide accurate information. Modern technology makes it easier to respond to our surveys, but even more important is the close relationships our regional staff have with survey respondents. That high-touch, high-tech approach has proven successful and helped us achieve high response rates.

BLS has a long history of working with states. We wrote about this unique and important partnership back in 2016. Our regional staff work closely with their state colleagues to provide data that are timely, accurate, and relevant to the local economy. We are proud of our partnership with the states.

Finally, each regional office has a small staff of economists dedicated to providing information to the public. These Economic Analysis and Information staff write news releases and other reports that focus on local data. The staff support our data collection efforts through outreach to local business communities and associations. The staff also provide information to people and businesses who use data to make important decisions.

What started as a way to provide analysis on government price controls and wage increases has evolved and blossomed into an integral part of BLS. The pioneering staff from our past and the dedicated staff of today allow us to produce gold standard economic statistics.

Congratulations to the BLS regional offices staff on 75 years of excellent service to the nation!

Labor Market Status of U.S. Military Veterans in 2017

In honor of Veterans Day, here’s a one-stop shop of all of our most up-to-date data on veterans.

  • After reaching 9.9 percent in January 2011, the unemployment rate for veterans was 2.7 percent in October 2017. This is the lowest rate since 2000.
  • The unemployment rate for Gulf War-era II veterans — who served on active duty at any time since September 2001 — reached 15.2 percent in January 2011. However, the unemployment rate was 3.6 percent in October 2017, the lowest rate since this series began in 2006.
  • The peak unemployment rate for nonveterans was 10.4 percent in January 2010; their rate was 3.8 percent in October 2017.
  • There were 347,000 unemployed veterans in the United States in the third quarter of 2017; 30 percent of them were ages 18 to 34.
  • In the third quarter of 2017, more veterans worked in government than in any other industry; 21 percent of all veterans and 25 percent of Gulf War-era II veterans worked for federal, state, or local government. By comparison, 13 percent of employed nonveterans worked in government.
  • After government, the next largest employers of veterans are manufacturing and professional and business services.

Now let’s take a look at some data that may help veterans who are looking for work or considering a career change.

Looking to move?

In 2016, the unemployment rate for veterans varied across the country, ranging from 1.8 percent in Indiana to 7.6 percent in the District of Columbia.

A map showing unemployment rates for U.S. military veterans by state in 2016

Editor’s note: Data for this map are available in the table below.

What industries have the most job openings?

There were 6.1 million job openings in September 2017. Here’s how they break down by industry.

A chart showing job openings by industry in September 2017.

Editor’s note: Data for this chart are available in the table below.

What are the fastest-growing jobs?

Thank you, veterans, for your service. Check out our website at www.bls.gov 24/7 or give our information office a call at 202-691-5200. We also have regional information offices available to assist you. BLS has the data you need to make wise decisions.

Unemployment rates for veterans by state, 2016 annual averages
State Unemployment rate
Total, 18 years and over 4.3%

Alabama

4.9

Alaska

2.7

Arizona

3.9

Arkansas

3.1

California

5.4

Colorado

3.9

Connecticut

4.4

Delaware

4.1

District of Columbia

7.6

Florida

4.2

Georgia

3.5

Hawaii

2.2

Idaho

3.6

Illinois

6.7

Indiana

1.8

Iowa

4.2

Kansas

5.2

Kentucky

3.9

Louisiana

5.0

Maine

3.1

Maryland

3.8

Massachusetts

4.6

Michigan

3.2

Minnesota

5.8

Mississippi

4.6

Missouri

3.2

Montana

4.4

Nebraska

4.1

Nevada

4.0

New Hampshire

2.1

New Jersey

4.9

New Mexico

3.6

New York

5.6

North Carolina

4.5

North Dakota

3.9

Ohio

4.2

Oklahoma

4.5

Oregon

6.3

Pennsylvania

5.2

Rhode Island

3.7

South Carolina

5.0

South Dakota

2.6

Tennessee

3.6

Texas

3.6

Utah

2.3

Vermont

2.2

Virginia

3.4

Washington

3.8

West Virginia

4.8

Wisconsin

5.0

Wyoming

5.1
Note: Veterans are men and women who served on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces and were not on active duty at the time of the survey.
Job openings by industry in September 2017
Industry Number
Professional and business services 1,193,000
Health care and social assistance 1,074,000
Accommodation and food services 667,000
Retail trade 616,000
Manufacturing 425,000
Finance and insurance 280,000
Other services 280,000
State and local government, excluding education 267,000
Transportation, warehousing, and utilities 246,000
Wholesale trade 222,000
Construction 196,000
State and local government education 182,000
Educational services 98,000
Information 94,000
Arts, entertainment, and recreation 90,000
Federal government 81,000
Real estate and rental and leasing 59,000
Mining and logging 24,000

Partnering with the States to Provide Labor Market Information

I am fortunate to have so many opportunities to speak about the Bureau of Labor Statistics and how the information we release—almost daily—helps Americans make smart decisions. Recently, I’ve spoken to academics, students, researchers, business leaders, labor officials, policymakers, and more. No matter the group, I’m often asked what data we have for a specific state or local area. While people care about national trends—the current (February 2016) national unemployment rate of 4.9 percent is the lowest rate since November 2007—they also want to know what’s happening closer to home. People in Iowa want to know their unemployment rate, 3.5 percent in January 2016, just as people in Mississippi want to know their unemployment rate, 6.7 percent.

I hope all users of BLS data appreciate that BLS is able to produce much of our national, state, and local data because of our partnerships with the states.

BLS and our state partners work together to publish comparable data in two broad subject areas: the labor market (employment, hours, and earnings) and occupational safety and health (workplace injuries, illnesses, and fatalities). I emphasized “comparable” in the previous sentence because we must be sure we measure conditions well and in the same way across localities. Otherwise, it’s hard to know how your area stacks up—in either level or trend.

Today I will focus on our Labor Market Information (LMI) programs, the first of which started over a century ago to collect employment, hours, and earnings for states and metro areas in 1915.

Four BLS programs make up the LMI family:

  • The Current Employment Statistics program provides the very timely monthly report on payroll jobs for the nation by detailed industry. It also provides employment data for states and metropolitan areas. Did you know California gained 442,400 jobs from January 2015 to January 2016? That was more jobs than any other state, but seven states had larger percentage gains. Idaho had the largest percentage increase, 3.7 percent, compared with 2.8 percent in California.
  • The Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages is a complete count of all employers who file Unemployment Insurance reports with their states. This program provides our most detailed geographic breakdowns, with information down to the county level. Cuyahoga County, Ohio, where I used to live, had 713,000 wage and salary workers in the third quarter of 2015, and their average weekly wage was $985.
  • The Occupational Employment Statistics program provides employment and wage information for detailed occupations. The program provides data for the nation, states, metropolitan areas, and other geographic groupings. From this program, we learn that accountants and auditors in Boise earned an average of $31.21 per hour in 2014; the national average for accountants and auditors was $35.42 per hour.
  • The Local Area Unemployment Statistics program provides unemployment data for states and local areas. Interestingly, both North and South Dakota had 2.8 percent unemployment rates in January 2016, the lowest in the nation.

state-unemployment-rates-in-january-2016

BLS and the states work together to decide what information we and our customers in the public and private sector need to learn about the labor market. Together we decide the best methods for collecting accurate, relevant information at a cost that provides the best value for taxpayers. BLS and the states collaborate on collecting the data, ensuring its accuracy, and publishing it quickly enough for public policymakers, businesses, and families to make good decisions.

Our partnerships with the states foster a culture of continuous improvement, as we test new ideas and methods to deepen our knowledge of the labor market. We strengthened this partnership through the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 and more recently the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2014. Working together, we strive to produce and improve labor market information that serves the needs of local communities across the country.

 

Why This Counts: Celebrating 100 years of Current Employment Statistics

You’re only as old as you feel, or so the saying goes. Here at BLS, we agree that age is only a state of mind. I’m proud to say the Current Employment Statistics (CES) survey—which some call the “payroll survey” or the “establishment survey”—is still going strong as it turns 100 years old this month. To celebrate, BLS is hosting a free public event with exciting guest speakers and topical booths staffed with economists ready to answer your questions. We will hold the 100 Years of CES Symposium on October 19, 2015, in Washington, DC. You need to register to attend. We hope to see you there.

Throughout its 100 years, many things about the CES have remained the same, while others bear no likeness to the survey’s origins. Instead of the monthly news releases and web updates we post rapidly today, the start of the modern CES program was one table called the “Number of employees and amount of earnings in identical establishments in certain industries during one week of October and November, 1915,” published in the January 1916 Monthly Labor Review. Interestingly enough, when the survey began, many analysts viewed the amount of earnings as more useful than a count of employees because they believed earnings were more closely tied to changes in production. Employers were more likely to reduce hours worked and therefore pay than lay people off. Today, the headline number on the monthly jobs report is the number of jobs added or lost each month.

One crucial feature that remains unchanged is the survey’s reliance on voluntary reports from US employers. So, I thank CES survey respondents for your cooperation then and now, because the survey could not succeed without you. The U.S. labor market is fueled by business of all sizes and industries. The experience of each employer tells an important story, so I encourage you to say “yes” when we call to ask for your participation.

The states have always played an especially important role in making, publishing, and explaining CES estimates. I thank our state partners for their continued support of the CES program.

I encourage all our readers to check the Monthly Labor Review regularly in the coming months because we will publish several articles that highlight the survey throughout the decades. As always, your source of the most up-to-date information about national and state and metro area employment, hours, and earnings estimates is www.bls.gov.

Have a question about the survey? Staff economists are available Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Eastern time. For questions about national estimates, call (202) 691-6555 or send us an email. State and metro area economists are available at (202) 691-6559, and you also can email them.